Tommy Smith’s Obsession with D.B. Cooper


I grew up on the Key Peninsula, a tangle of islands and waterways threaded with pine trees.

Not many people live there.

As a summer job, I hired myself out in the local newspaper to do yardwork.

This occupation brought me to the furthest reaches of the Peninsula, past Federal roads into dirt-paved rural palaces of people who preferred to live without another soul around.

These people were libertarians, anarchists, staunch Republicans, fringe Democrats – their opposing ethos uniting them only in the fact that they needed privacy.

As I was mowing the lawn of a Vietnam Vet, he approached me with a ham sandwich.

We had lunch.

He talked about the people who lived in the woods.

He mentioned that beyond the trees that surrounded his house lived other people who never left the woods.

He said that sometimes they came down to his property and he would have to shoot at them with his shotgun.

That was the last day I mowed his lawn.

But the idea of missing lives being played out in the forests that surrounded my childhood home thrilled me.

Since I was young, that’s where I thought Sasquatch lived.

As a kid, I used to look out the car window at passing forests and imagine that footage of the Bigfoot swaying his arms past treetrunks.

That’s also where I imagined D.B. Cooper might be.

All I knew at the time was that a man stole money then parachuted out of a plane somewhere near my house and they never found him.

When the Vet talked about the forest people, I thought of Cooper.

I have had a lifelong fascination with D.B. – from presentations on the hijacking in middle school history class to writing a High Times article about the potential suspects, which then got adapted by my co-story writer Teddy Bergman and I into this play.

And though we based this work on the article, everything you see here is imagined – like every aspect of D.B. Cooper.

Only one person ever saw him – his stewardess Tina Mucklow.

And she isn’t talking.

She disappeared into the woods too.

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tommysmith_headshotTommy Smith’s play FIREMEN recently won five LADCC awards, including best writing. His other plays include GHOSTLIGHT (Labyrinth Theatre Company, d. Paul Budraitis), WHITE HOT (West Of Lenin, d. Braden Abraham); ZERO, PTSD & PIGEON (Ensemble Studio Theatre, d. Billy Carden); THE WIFE (Access Gallery, d. May Adrales); CARAVAN MAN (Williamstown Theatre Festival, music & lyrics by Gabriel Kahane, d. Kip Fagan); DEMON DREAMS (Magic Futurebox, music by DJ Spooky, d. Kevin Laibson); A DAY IN DIG NATION (PS 122, co-written and d. Michael McQuilken); AIR CONDITIONING (Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, d. Steve Cosson); among others.

In addition, his award-winning theatrical collaborations with Reggie Watts – DISINFORMATION, TRANSITION, RADIOPLAY and DUTCH A/V – played at The Public Theatre, Lamama, The Warhol Museum, MCA Chicago, ICA Boston, On The Boards and PICA: TBA, among others. As a director/writer, Tommy created the environmental sound performances, NECTARINE EP (for Flea Theater) LOTUS EATERS EP (for IRT Theater, with voices of Neil Gaiman, Marin Ireland & Reed Birney), FORTH (for MFB, d. Meiyin Wang), and DRUGLETTERS (for Labyrinth Theatre Company).

Tommy is the recipient of the PONY fellowship at The Lark, a two-time winner of the Lecomte du Nouy Prize, a two-time recipient of the E.S.T. Sloan Grant, a winner of the Page73 Productions Playwriting Fellowship, a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writer’s Group at Primary Stages, a recipient of the Creative Capital award, and a two-time winner of the MAP Fund. Publications include PIGEON for Dramatists Play Service and WHITE HOT in the New York Theatre Review. He is a graduate of the playwriting program at The Juilliard School.

Tommy’s feature film FIGMENT is currently optioned by Ridley Scott’s production company ScottFree. Smith is also working on a thriller SLEEPER CAR with director Guy Moshe and Zero Gravity Entertainment.

As a journalist, Tommy’s work has appeared in The Village Voice, High Times & The Brooklyn Rail. He lives in New York City.






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